Mushroom Time

After 48 hours of rain earlier this week: BOOM, it’s mushroom time. I’ve been cataloging mushrooms in our yard for several years (2018, 2020, 2021, 2021) and I am constantly amazed by the number and variety that appear. Most come up under a small grove of oaks along our driveway, but a few show up in the lawn, or in piles of mulch.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a much larger network of underground thread-like filaments called mycelium. This network is either breaking down and recycling dead stuff, feeding on weakened organisms, or contributing to growth of plants in exchange for carbon. Nearly 90 percent of all plants have a symbiotic fungal root partner!

Identifying mushrooms is a bear. There are several thousand species in northeastern North America, with lots of look-alikes. Sometimes it takes a microscope to make a positive ID. So mostly, I just paint them and take notes.

My desk is a wreck. There are trays of mushrooms both whole and cut open, spore prints, magnifiers, rulers, field guides, paints, and brushes. But now that I’ve started, I can’t stop. And there are more coming up every day, with more rain in the forecast. Look around where you live and a take a closer look at the mushrooms that come up there. See how many different ones you can find. But beware: you may soon get hooked too!

Coming up! I’ve got both online and in person workshops this month…check the workshops page for details.

37 Comments on “Mushroom Time

  1. Such an interesting and informative post Jean….thank you! For some reason, mushrooms are one of my favorite ‘stand-by’s’ to sketch and paint when I feel like creating something but don’t know what. 🙂

  2. what a beautifully colorful and informative set of pages! Sounds like great rainy day fun, and the year-to-year record adds a whole other dimension.

  3. How I would love to see a photo of your desk! I completely love your mushroom addiction. They are incredibly fascinating organisms, and from what mycologists have learned, the mycelium connections are communication pipelines warning the fruiting bodies of all kinds of environmental changes, both harmful and beneficial. Your wealth of pages illustrating the variety of fungi in your area is fascinating. I’m “poring” over each like a good book that should never end. Do you sketch each before painting? Lightly with ink or pencil? I notice you only represent a sampling of complex features, like gills. A technique worth remembering … I tend to get lost in the details. Wow! I miss mushrooms. The most common colony of ‘shrooms appearing in our high elevation forests now are oyster mushrooms. You’ve inspired me to try a drawing!

    • This is the actual spore print. I sprayed it with fixative– the kind you would use on pastels– and it seems to be holding. I have other nice prints, but I ran out of room for them. I think you could try replicating a spore print with watercolor spatter.

      • It’s magnificent! The fixative is a great idea. I really zoomed in to enjoy the texture. Mother Nature does it best. Thanks Jean!

      • Your desk is fit for a science illustrator/researcher. The size of those mushroom caps is astounding! One of them looks as big as a thanksgiving turkey. Thanks so much for giving us a peak into your studio.

  4. Wonderful — the mushrooms, but not all the rain! I am looking forward to more mushrooms coming up when the rains arrive in the PNW — we’ve had a very dry, warm summer! I would love to try a spore print, too. Love the technique where you only draw in a few of the gills and leave the rest to the imagination. Would also love to see a photo of your desk scattered with mushrooms!

      • Yes, like there Jean. While it’s still warm and after there’s been some rain. We have a lot of small colourful fungi that you have to look carefully for – on the forest floor and decaying logs. Delightful when you find them!

  5. Dear Jean, Your prose is as beautiful as your drawings and your mushrooms are so characterful. I felt such connection when you said “My desk is a mess.” –that’s when I know that I’m really into my subject–and really in the right side of my brain that doesn’t give a damn how messy things get. Judy

    • Ha! I’m glad we share a messy desk connection. I get to a point where it gets overwhelming and I have to clean house and start over…and then the cycle begins again. I cleared out my first week of mushrooms and cleaned off the dirt. Then went out again and came back with 10 more species. I had intended to paint them outside, but it started to rain, so no luck! I’m just hoping I don’t have a hatch out of insects as a result. -Jean

  6. It’s not hard to imagine that desk! I’ve had several spates of mushroom madness over the years, depending on where I lived, how much time I had, etc. I love the spore print on the Boletes page. The Amanita sketches have just the right “posture” they tend to have – very straight and proud. Nice!
    Since catching a native orchid madness bug over the last year or two I’ve become more aware of the mycelium relationships and the fragility of some of those networks. I’m still trying to find out whether one genus of orchids that grows here relies on the same species (or genus) of fungus as a tree that I always see growing near the orchids. Maybe all three work together – tree, orchid & fungus. It’s either one or several Rusulas. I don’t know if the mycelium the orchid is connected to sends up those nice, white-stemmed, colorfully-capped mushrooms that I associate with Rusula. So much to learn, right? 🙂

    • No kidding– tons to learn! Those white russula stems remind me of cigarettes. We’ve got several coming up now with purple, green, reddish, ochre, and salmon colored caps. It’s interesting to hear of the orchid connection. I haven’t done any research on that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if tree, mycelium, and orchid are all intertwined. So many networks that we don’t understand. I can’t figure out why the small grove of oaks in our yard yields so many species– close to twenty last week alone and more are coming now after more rain and humidity. It’s a mycologist’s paradise!

      • Cigarettes, that’s really funny. The colors are great, aren’t they? I don’t normally see the variety you do but over time, I’ve probably seen those colors. I’m glad you’re taking advantage of your bountiful fungus crop. You have to think that oaks have connections to multiple fungal networks. The orchids are in the family called bog orchids – Platanthera. There are 3 species here and they all seem to grow within 20′ or so of Madrone trees. Obviously, those orchids and that tree prefer the same kind of environment but still…there are places with the same environment but no Madrones and no orchids. Go figure! It’s fascinating. Yes, there’s so much we don’t know! Here’s to wonder!

    • You are correct about it all, including the odor. It’s sort of rich and musty…perhaps “earthy” is a nicer way to put it. And an occasional insect crawls out to explore its new surroundings.

  7. Thanks so much for this fascinating post. I had just finished explaining to hubby that I would ‘soon’ be finished with the piles of shells that are on our desk, when I read your post. Naturally I showed him the pic of your desk. He’s now rather grateful. After all the stale seaweed smell is much better than rotting mushrooms. 😂 Keep up your wonderful work!

    • Glad to provide cover! I toss the mushrooms before they reach the rotten stage, but “earthy” would be apt. Only once did I forget mushrooms and they melted into the spore print in a most unpleasant way. Good luck with the shells!

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